Insurers won’t pay Mark’s £3,500 bill because he turned his heating off

Burst pipes could turn your home into a disaster zone – and leave you knee deep in clean-up bills.

Insurance claims can top £100,000 if an entire house is ­flooded. And the risk soars when a property is left empty for a long period in cold weather, as a reader called Alex ­discovered to his cost.

He wrote to me about a dispute he is having with his home insurer – a problem that could hit many households over the coming ­wintry weeks.

Alex went away for the weekend, leaving his home empty. He returned to a horror scene.

The damage to Alex’s home

A water pipe had burst in the loft and part of the ceiling had ­collapsed, causing thousands of pounds worth of damage.

Naturally he contacted his ­insurer to make a claim. He ­explained what had happened and provided photos of the damage.

Later he received a call from the insurer, who wanted more ­details.

He was asked how long he was away, if the pipes in the loft had lagging fitted around them and had he left the heating on.

He confirmed he had been away for the weekend, the pipes were not lagged and the heating was off.

A few days after the call, the insurer told Alex they were not going to be covering his claim ­because they considered he had been ­negligent in failing to lag the pipes. They claim the pipes needed this additional protection because they were vulnerable up in the loft.

And they said failing to leave the heating on – or at least the hot water – during icy weather also went against his claim.

A £3,500 claim that wasn’t paid

Alex, who lives in Market Harborough in Leicestershire, was devastated. He is now facing a £3,500 clean-up bill.

I’ve looked at the insurer’s terms and conditions. They do clearly state you have a duty to prevent loss or damage by taking all ­reasonable precautions.

I also spoke to a home repair ­specialist who informed me they do advise householders to put the heating or hot water on a timer during freezing conditions to avoid pipes bursting.

I read further into the insurer’s terms and found another alarming exclusion – they do not cover any loss or damage caused by frost.

This should be a major concern to householders during this bitterly cold spell.

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